Because the ending touches are placed on Iran’s newest main dam mission, environmentalists and archaeologists are warning that it may spell the tip for an space within the nation’s southwest fed by the diminishing waters of the Zohreh River.
The Chamshir Dam, the nation’s newest large hydropower enterprise, is about to go on stream in March. However because the clock winds down, critics are making a determined bid to cease the mission, warning that it’s going to flip agricultural lands right into a salty wasteland and flood newly found archaeological websites.
The Zohreh River, which is able to fill the dam’s reservoir, will not be what it was within the Sixties, when authorities first had designs to harness its energy to supply electrical energy and increase irrigation in impoverished Khuzestan Province and different areas of southwestern Iran.
In recent times, seasonal droughts have at occasions lowered the brackish waters of the river to a trickle because it winds its technique to the Persian Gulf, endangering flood-dependent flora and wildlife and contributing to water shortages which have sparked offended protests in Khuzestan.
The large dam and adjoining hydroelectric plant, financed via a high-interest, $244 million mortgage from China, has been erected on the western fringe of Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad Province, and can reduce off downriver Khuzestan from the pure movement of the already careworn Zohreh River to fill its reservoir.
The dam’s operator has mentioned that the reservoir will maintain 2.3 billion cubic meters of water and generate 482 megawatts of hydroelectric energy a 12 months, whereas the authorities have bought it as a technique to quench farmers’ thirst for reliable water provides to spice up agricultural output.
However residents of the area, which sits on an intensive mattress of gypsum and salt generally known as the Gachsaran Formation, would not have to look far to see the destruction wrought by the federal government’s earlier failures to handle scarce water provides regardless of grand guarantees.
The Gotvand Dam, constructed within the Nineteen Nineties and positioned simply 250 kilometers northwest of the Chamshir mission, was located subsequent to a big salt dome. Regardless of warnings, the mission went forward and in the end left the authorities coping with a brine-filled reservoir.
And in 2021, offended protesters who took to the streets of Khuzestan and neighboring Isfahan Province pointed to the Chadegan Dam, positioned 250 kilometers north of the Chamshir Dam, and different large-scale tasks from the Nineteen Seventies because the supply of their water woes.
WATCH: Water shortages within the Iranian province of Isfahan led to mass protests in November 2021 and a brutal authorities response. Farmers within the province say the state of affairs nonetheless has not improved and accuse officers of gross mismanagement.
Flood Of Criticism
Nomads have roamed the realm surrounding the Chamshir mission because the Sassanid Empire, the final Persian imperial dynasty earlier than the Muslim conquest of the mid-seventh century.
Greater than 140 historical websites from the Sassanid and Islamic eras lie within the basin destined to change into a reservoir, 124 of them newly found. However with treasured little time to excavate the websites, archaeologists worry that very important items of the nation’s historical past will quickly be drowned and that modern-day nomads might be compelled out.
For his or her half, environmentalists have strongly objected to the mission, saying that other than salt deposits the reservoir can be set on capped oil wells. They’ve known as for it to be halted instantly till additional affect research might be performed.
The dam’s operators have downplayed the criticism and careworn the significance of pooling treasured water provides. They’ve additionally argued that considerations about excessive salinity are unfounded as a result of salt deposits are buried a whole bunch of meters under the floor.
Mahmud Muharniya, the dam’s supervisor, mentioned in a December press convention that “there isn’t a proof of the presence of salt on the floor” and that comparisons to different controversial tasks are misguided. Muharniya additionally mentioned that the reservoir might be full of waters from the winter flood season, which he mentioned lessens the salinity of the Zohreh River and can present higher-quality water.
Examine In Open Opposition
However these arguments have finished little to assuage critics’ considerations, as evidenced by movies, petitions, and open letters penned by researchers and environmental authorities.
Hossein Akhani, a distinguished botanist who has studied Iran’s salt-imbued landscapes for many years, took to Instagram as early as 2021 to point out that prime salinity had already taken its toll on plants close to the brand new dam mission.
“Your dam was so salty that it was revealed after solely two days of visits,” Akhani wrote in feedback to a video he posted exhibiting lifeless and broken timber. “You’ll be able to proceed to trick ignorant officers with false claims, however the fact would not cover.”
Extra lately, college professors and environmental specialists have pushed again with a petition signed by greater than 23,000 folks declaring the Chamshir Dam a “hazard,” on account of faults within the reservoir mattress and the existence of 11 oil wells in and across the reservoir. The authors of the petition, together with Akhani, additionally mentioned that halting the movement of winter flood waters will disrupt the pure strategy of desalination and soil fertilization, and can create a mud bowl.
Different lecturers have listed different negatives, together with the disruption of nomadic life, the dependence on Chinese language funding, the lack of belief within the authorities, and the continuation of a flawed “American” thought of progress that started with large-scale growth tasks many years earlier than the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
In an interview in late December with the Tehran-based Payam-e Ma newspaper, Mehdi Hajikazem, the civil affairs supervisor of Chamshir Dam, dismissed the considerations. Hajikazem mentioned that analysis concerning the mission was “open to everybody” and that lecturers who took his workplace up on its provide to review it got here away satisfied that the dam poses no menace.
“It isn’t my accountability to resolve whether or not to cease [the project],” Hajikazem mentioned, accusing critics of merely being in opposition to the development of dams beneath any circumstances. “However as a patriotic Iranian, I say that this dam is admittedly essential.”